DJJ adds new surveillance system to buildings

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The ministry said it was working to better place young people with mental illnesses.

COLUMBIA, SC — The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) announced shared plans to improve security at its facilities at the quarterly meeting of the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Council on Friday. It was the first meeting since the confirmation of agency director Eden Hendrick.

During the meeting, Hendrick presented proposals for solutions to current problems in juvenile detention centers.

The first issue on the list was to have more eyes on what is happening inside the walls of the facility.

“We are almost completing the first stage of our camera system project. We have installed state-of-the-art cameras in all of our secure facilities,” Hendrick said. “This project actually started before I came here, but I increased it. I have made sure that wherever the staff and young people are alone there will be a camera.”

The announcement comes just a week after DJJ confirmed a disruption at one of its facilities that sent two of them to hospital.

RELATED: Two DJJ minors sent to hospital after ‘group disruption’

Issues like this date back to 2017, including resident leaks and attacks on staff. The director said that these cameras will help in future incidents that may occur in the detention centers.

“If we have an incident, instead of having two cameras, we’ll have 22 cameras,” Henrick said. “You can zoom, you can follow people. It’s one of the best technologies, I think, in the country that we have.”

Hendrick said these new cameras will also help with the department’s staffing issue.

As DJJ seeks to increase staff, it also seeks to reduce the number of young people at each facility.

“Unfortunately it’s a huge struggle for us,” Hendrick said. “A detention center is only supposed to house 72 young people and it has averaged over 100 since December.”

RELATED: Teen sneaked loaded gun past officers and into DJJ facility, police say

Some of the residents have needs. Hendrick said the facility was not equipped to respond.

Hendrick said the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) is stepping in to help place residents with mental illnesses.

“With the departure of one of their psychiatrists, we were able to bring in some of our contract psychiatrists, as well as Dr. Simmer, from DHEC, to offer to help cover the DJJ children in the meantime” , said a representative of said the DHEC.

Hendrick said this is just the beginning of many projects to come as the department works to reform minors.

Money for the upgrade would come from the state budget, which still needs to be approved by lawmakers.

RELATED: SCDJJ Sued Over Conditions Behind Facility Walls

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